"Interfacing with Writing: Clubs and Systems in Eighteenth-Century Print Culture"
Clifford Siskin
English, U of Glasgow

Author of The Work of Writing: Literature and Social Change in Britain, 1700-1830
This talk will argue that the powerful transformations of Enlightenment arose not by accommodating the technology to the user--making humans comfortable with writing--but by making them do what writing wanted: the new technology formed them into groups that facilitated its own propagation. I have a specific and entertaining example: the first "fair-intellectual club" in Britain, formed in Edinburgh in 1717 for young women between the age of 15 and "Death" or "Marriage." I detail how they were systematically transformed through writing into something other--something that caused them, in the words of their secretary, "true pleasure." Their example suggests that we should reverse the usual question: rather than asking "What do we now expect of computers and of our interfaces to them?" we might inquire what the new technology wants of us.